National / International News

Prisoner Exchange With Cuba Led To Freedom For Top U.S. Intelligence Agent

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-17 09:31

President Obama called the unnamed man "one of the most important intelligence agents that the United States has ever had in Cuba." The agent spent nearly two decades in a Cuban prison.

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Managed Care Plans Make Progress In Erasing Racial Disparities

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-17 09:30

Though blacks still lag whites nationwide in health, disparities have been largely eliminated in the western states, a study finds. Kaiser Permanente's Medicare HMOs did best on that.

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VIDEO: Pakistan attack 'darkest day of my life'

BBC - Wed, 2014-12-17 09:30
BBC News speaks to Shah Jehan, a UK relative of two young boys who died in the Peshawar school attack.

German road toll plan gets go-ahead

BBC - Wed, 2014-12-17 09:29
The German government approves plans for a controversial road toll, including charging foreigners for using the Autobahn.

New Cuba Policy Is Met With Cheers And Jeers On Both Sides Of The Aisle

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-17 09:26

Sen. Marco Rubio and other prominent Cuban-American lawmakers issued blistering rebukes of plans to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba.

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Mass grave 'found in eastern Syria'

BBC - Wed, 2014-12-17 09:17
The bodies of more than 230 people believed to have been killed by Islamic State (IS) have been found in a mass grave in eastern Syria, activists say.

A Holy Land Christmas Porridge Honors A Damsel In Distress

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-17 09:10

Some Christians in Israel and the West Bank celebrate Eid el-Burbara on Dec. 17. The feast honors St. Barbara, an early convert to Christianity whose story is echoed in the Rapunzel tale.

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New Blackberry 'back to its roots'

BBC - Wed, 2014-12-17 09:09
Blackberry launches what it calls a "no-nonsense" smartphone, the Blackberry Classic.

Philae comet landing 'all a blur'

BBC - Wed, 2014-12-17 09:06
An image has been released that shows the hairy moment that the Philae comet lander bounced back into space.

Straw 'never complicit' in torture

BBC - Wed, 2014-12-17 09:04
Jack Straw says he is happy to appear before an inquiry looking at the treatment of detainees by UK intelligence agencies.

PC jailed for Cregan and drugs leaks

BBC - Wed, 2014-12-17 08:59
A PC who passed on intelligence about police killer Dale Cregan and planned drugs raids to her sister and her drug-dealing former lover is jailed.

Kenya blogger on president slur charge

BBC - Wed, 2014-12-17 08:31
A popular and controversial Kenyan blogger is charged with undermining the presidency, following a tweet he posted earlier this week.

Grounds awarded 2019 Ashes Tests

BBC - Wed, 2014-12-17 08:08
Edgbaston and Old Trafford are allocated Ashes Tests for 2019 as the ECB announces its international venues for 2017-2019.

Behind The Scenes At The Lab That Fingerprints Microbiomes

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-17 08:06

Inside the lab, a lone technician sorts through new samples, snipping off swab heads intentionally fouled with fecal material. One head goes to cold storage and the other is processed for sequencing.

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Risks Have Never Been Greater For Medical Workers In Conflict Zones

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-17 07:55

They've always been caught in the crossfire. But now they're being directly targeted. And no place is more dangerous than Syria.

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Secrets of the Christmas tree lot

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-12-17 07:44

Americans bought 33 million Christmas trees last year by one count, making it a billion-dollar industry in this country alone. Perhaps nowhere are Christmas tree sales more visible than on the streets of New York City. 

Supriya and Vijay Laknidhi walk through a narrow evergreen forest on a sidewalk in Brooklyn Heights. They stop in front of a 7-foot Fraser fir.

“It’s pretty full, you know so even if you don’t have that many ornaments on there it still looks like a really healthy tree,” Supriya says.  Vijay adds, “we just had our first kid, so it’s a tree with an occasion now.

The Laknidhis are purchasing their family’s tree from another family tree. Ellie Bishop’s family started selling trees in 1988 when she was little more than a year old.  Now, she has her baby at the stand, alongside her mother and brother. These three generations of tree sellers manage a stable in Vermont the rest of the year. But that’s not necessarily where the trees come from.

“Well it kinda works like this: A bunch of tree sellers all throughout the city get together. We buy from big tree farms in different parts of the country,” Bishop says. “These ones come from North Carolina, sometimes [they come] all the way from Oregon. It just depends where they’re ordered from, where we get the best deal.”

Bishop’s supplier buys evergreens from wherever the trees grow the fastest. The vendors come from wherever work during the winter is slow.

“Selling trees really helps people get through January, February till they can get back to work in March,” Bishop says. 

Last year Ellie’s family sold about 300 trees, mostly priced between $55 and $140. It’s not easy work staying out on the street, in freezing temperatures, all day for most of December.  Still, it’s enough to lure seasonal workers like Melany Westerloppe, who's from Quebec.  She runs a stand in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan.  High end trees here go for $400 – last year she sold to Robert De Niro. It’s the adventure as well as the money that lures hundreds of French-Canadians like her to the city. 

Westerloppe estimates,  “our company it’s about 300 stands in all the city because we are two or three people by stand.”  

The company, Forever Evergreen, is incorporated in Florida. It supplies to every stand I came across and owns hundreds of its own. The company is secretive, running a cash business that’s largely unregulated – and staffed by a migrant work force.

Simon Durind also sells trees in Manhattan. I asked him why a Florida-based company, buying trees from North Carolina, wants French Canadians to sell Christmas trees in New York City?

“They like Quebecois with an accent on the streets selling trees, looking like a North Viking. That’s what they like and it works,” exclaims Durind, a carpenter in Quebec who says he doesn’t mind living out of a van for a month. He estimates he makes $17 an hour for the season.  But there are other perks for these French-speaking, pine-scented gentlemen.

"The women of New  York are very beautiful," Durind says. "You know you don’t often see people like us, cutting trees with a saw and sometimes it looks like it impresses some people.” 

Mistletoe sold separately.

Christmas tree sales lure migrant workers to New York

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-12-17 07:44

Americans bought 33 million Christmas trees last year by one count, making it a billion-dollar industry in this country alone.  Perhaps nowhere are Christmas tree sales more visible than on the streets of New York City. 

Supriya and Vijay Laknidhi walk through a narrow evergreen forest on a sidewalk in Brooklyn Heights. They stop in front of a 7-foot Fraser Fir.

“It’s pretty full, you know so even if you don’t have that many ornaments on there it still looks like a really healthy tree,” Supriya says.  Vijay adds, “we just had our first kid so it’s a tree with an occasion now.

The Laknidhis are purchasing their family’s tree from another family tree.  Ellie Bishop’s family started selling trees in 1988 when she was little more than a year old.  Now, she has her baby at the stand, alongside her mother and brother.  These three generations of tree sellers manage a stable in Vermont the rest of the year. But that’s not necessarily where the trees come from.

“Well it kinda works like this: A bunch of tree sellers all throughout the city get together. We buy from big tree farms in different parts of the country,” Bishop says. “These ones come from North Carolina, sometimes [they come] all the way from Oregon. It just depends where they’re ordered from, where we get the best deal.”

Ellie’s supplier buys evergreens from wherever the trees grow the fastest.  The vendors come from wherever work during the winter is slow.

“Selling trees really helps people get through January, February till they can get back to work in March,” says Bishop. 

Last year Ellie’s family sold about 300 trees, mostly priced between $55 and $140.   It’s not easy work staying out on the street, in freezing temperatures, all day for most of December.  Still, it’s enough to lure seasonal workers like Melany Westerloppe, who's from Quebec.  She runs a stand in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan.  High end trees here go for $400-- last year she sold to Robert De Niro. It’s the adventure as well as the money that lures hundreds of French-Canadians like her to the city. 

Westerloppe estimates,  “our company it’s about 300 stands in all the city because we are 2 or 3 people by stand.”  

The company, called Forever Evergreen, is incorporated in Florida.  It supplies to all of the stands I came across and owns hundreds of its own.  The company is pretty secretive. It runs a cash business that’s largely unregulated, and staffed by a migrant work force.

Simon Durind also sells trees in Manhattan.  I asked him why a Florida-based Company, buying trees from North Carolina, wants French Canadians to sell Christmas trees in New York City?

“They like Quebecois with an accent on the streets selling trees, looking like a North Viking. That’s what they like and it works,” exclaims Durin.

Durind, who’s a carpenter in Quebec, doesn’t mind living out of a van for a month. He estimates he makes $17 an hour for the season.  But there are other perks for these French-speaking, pine-scented gentlemen.

"The women of New  York are very beautiful," Durind says. "You know you don’t often see people like us, cutting trees with a saw and sometimes it looks like it impresses some people.” 

Mistletoe sold separately.

Way Beyond Brownies: Vice Launches A Marijuana Cooking Show

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-17 07:31

"Nonna Marijuana's Italian Feast" is the first episode of a Web series exploring pot cuisine. It features a charming 91-year-old grandmother who cooks cannabis Italian food infused with love.

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Giant 'sinkhole' appears in garden

BBC - Wed, 2014-12-17 07:21
A "massive" sinkhole has appeared in the front garden of a house in Berkshire.

Glitch reveals Apprentice finalists

BBC - Wed, 2014-12-17 07:20
The names of the finalists for this year's series of The Apprentice are apparently revealed ahead of time due to a glitch on the show's website.

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